Water Kefir: Tips, Tricks and Lessons Learned

Water Kefir: Tips, Tricks and Lessons Learned :: Five Little Homesteaders

Were getting all kinds of involved in fermentation over here on our little homestead.

You see, while most of you are out there planting, harvesting and enjoying the great outdoors, those of us living in Phoenix are locked in our houses huddled under the nearest air conditioning vent.  So, as any good hermit would do, I took to caring for extra “creatures,” i.e. all my fermented cultures.  My first foray into new fermentation territory is with water kefir.

Water Kefir

Water Kefir: Tips, Tricks and Lessons Learned :: Five Little Homesteaders

Water kefir.  Have you made it?  Are you familiar with it?  If not, here you go – from the Cultures for Health website - http://www.culturesforhealth.com/water-kefir-frequently-asked-questions-faq :

Kefir is a probiotic beverage made with either kefir grains or a powdered kefir starter culture. There are two types of grains, milk kefir grains and water kefir grains. Milk kefir grains can be used with cow milk, goat milk, or coconut milk. Water kefir grains can be used with sugar water, juice, or coconut water. Kefir grains consist of bacteria and yeast existing in a symbiotic relationship. The term kefir grains describes the look of the culture only. 

If you’re interested in making water kefir, I highly suggest getting your grains from Cultures for Health via their site - http://www.culturesforhealth.com/  or on  Amazon - http://www.amazon.com/s/?_encoding=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&field-keywords=cultures%20for%20health%20water%20kefir&linkCode=ur2&rh=i%3Aaps%2Ck%3Acultures%20for%20health%20water%20kefir&tag=fivelitthome-20&url=search-alias%3Daps&linkId=C2OEYC7B4QOFLHAV  (unless of course you have a fermentation friend in your area, in which case, you can just wait for theirs to multiply and mooch).

Since there are already SO many great posts out there in cyberspace about HOW to make water kefir, I’m not going to try to do that topic any justice.  Instead, in this post, I’m going to focus on some of the things I’ve found many of these posts have left out or things/advice I really had to search out.  If you want some great posts on HOW to make water kefir, here they are:

  • Jenny’s post on Nourished Kitchen - http://nourishedkitchen.com/water-kefir/
  • Kate’s Post on Wellness Mama - http://wellnessmama.com/2261/water-kefir-soda/
  • Heather’s Post on Mommypotamus  - http://www.mommypotamus.com/how-to-make-water-kefir/

Tips, Tricks and Lessons Learned

Tips:

  • Have all your supplies ready to go and don’t skimp.  You need: quart size mason jars - http://amzn.to/1jMXYdO , flip top bottles - http://amzn.to/1pzLMkA (I got mine CHEAP at Ikea if you have one close), plastic strainer - http://amzn.to/1lOrbcC  , cheesecloth - http://amzn.to/1jgn3Oq , funnel - http://amzn.to/1nBLzvT , sugar, spring water, 100% juice of your choosing and the grains.
  • Don’t start your kefir right before you go on vacation or you’ll be carting your jar of kefir grains + water around with in the car on your way to your trip.  It will feel like you (already) have a fourth child, trust me on this.
  • Don’t worry about the alcohol content.  I’m pregnant, so when I read something about there being a “high” alcohol content in water kefir (from the second ferment), I got all freaked out.  Extensive further research proved that there is GENERALLY less than 1% alcohol content.  (Of course, this can vary but it is a general guideline.)  Should you drink gallons?  Probably not.  Can you drink a glass or two?  I’d say yes.
  • Do the second ferment.  You can drink the kefir after the first ferment but it is flat.  The second ferment brings the carbonation and tastiness.
  • Always “burp” your bottles during the second ferment.  Gas builds up quickly and you don’t want any explosions.

Water Kefir Grains :: Five Little Homesteaders

Tricks:

  • The initial step of water heating then cooling can get time consuming and can mess with your ability to keep up with your grains.  I find that filling my mason jar 1/4 full of hot water, dissolving the sugar in that much water and then filling my mason jar the rest of the way with COLD water works perfectly.  My water is instantly the right temperature.  (You’ve got to be careful.  Water that is too hot can kill your grains.  I used a thermometer the first few times until I got used to what the proper temperature felt like on my finger.)
  • After the second ferment, you may see a ring around the bottle where the level of kefir sat for a couple of days.  It is really annoying to get rid of.  I’ve found that hot water + 1 tbsp of rice in the bottle, cap tightly and shake well will usually get rid of the ring.  I’m sure there is some kind of bottle brush that would work too.

Lessons Learned:

  • Buy the plastic strainer - http://amzn.to/1pMa9gW .  I was being an EXTREME cheapskate and thought I could make the cheesecloth do double duty.  Not worth the hassle.  I bought the strainer a week later.
  • Use spring water.  I was using purified water (not my tap water which I KNOW has yucky stuff in it) and the grains QUICKLY began making less bubbles.  Spring water is important because of the minerals it contains.  I’ve read that you can add minerals back into purified water with something like these drops - http://amzn.to/1jgpQqN but haven’t tried it myself.
  • Don’t worry so much about what sugar you use.  Obviously I wouldn’t suggest using GMO sugar beets or non-organic cane sugar, but don’t get too freaked out about the 5 tbsp+ (!!) that you put in initially.  The whole point of the sugar is that you are giving the yeast and bacteria something to eat.  You’ll see after the first couple times you drink it that, despite all the sugar you put in the mason jar, the beverage really isn’t sweet at all.  I just use organic white cane sugar.  Pretty easy to find.
  • If you need to go out of town and don’t want to take your grains with you, put them in fresh sugar water in your mason jar, screw a lid on tight and stick in the fridge.  They will generally keep for a few weeks this way.
  • And most of all, just get started!  You can read blog posts and directions until you are blue in the face but really isn’t that hard.  Give it a try and find out how fun and tasty it is!

Have questions still?  Leave them in the comments and I’ll try to help out.


            
Water Kefir: Tips, Tricks and Lessons Learned :: Five Little Homesteaders


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Comments

  1. Someone gave me some water kefir grains and I was REALLY excited about using them… but it’s been a bit of a headache trying to get a drink we all like. And yes… I feel like I’m babysitting them and taking care of them all the time! A few of my batches tasted really alcoholic, so I don’t know about that 1% stuff. After the 1st ferment I’ve been putting lemon juice and a piece of ginger in the kefir to make homemade lemonade, but it’s not very sweet nor is it bubbly. Since it has the healthy probiotics I’m going to keep playing around with it, but the ginger bug I’ve used takes less work, makes really yummy drinks, and comes out more fizzy.

    • So Karla, your comment really got me thinking, especially about the alcohol thing. I was really nervous about it and I did a ton of research initially and then I felt good about it. Then I got your comment today and I started to feel bad about it again (I think it’s the pregnant lady part of me). So, I made my husband take down his hydrometer for beer making. I got a reading of just under 1% in a recently brewed batch of water kefir that used 100% juice in the second ferment. I would have liked it to be a little lower….. I might try some fresh fruit next time.

      As for the lemon juice and ginger in the second ferment, unless you are adding more sugar, it is my understanding that it won’t carbonate because you haven’t given the yeast/bacteria additional “food” since neither the ginger or lemon juice have any sugar. Additionally, it isn’t ever going to be particularly sweet because the yeast/bacteria is eating all of the sugar.

      Just my thoughts. I am far from an expert…. still learning but trying to share as I go along :)

  2. Hello! I’m into my 3rd week of making Water Kefir. We like the organic ‘white’ sugar( that is brownish when dissolved) and I just chill it after the first 48 hours. It is like a lemonade –slightly tart slightly sweet but without the actual lemon taste. I need to get the special bottles so I can get the bubbles…last batch in a wine bottle with a screw on cap had a few–it was still a good refreshing cherry drink. I actually just add the cherry juice to the first water and chill it. I guess I’m not going after a true soda replacement…more of a new flavorful beverage to have…one that is very good for you! I haven’t tried using it for morning smoothies yet…maybe that will be the next experiment.

  3. Kristine says:

    I was making water kefir faithfully for about 6 months, but finally let it go. I kept reading that the fermented product should not be as sweet as the sugar water you put into the jar, and I could never notice a difference. I threw the grains away because I finally figured that I had been feeding my children and I sugar water for half a year thinking I was doing something that was nourishing us. I really want to try again, but am afraid of the same thing happening…. Any tips

    • Hmmm…. sounds like something was wrong with your grains. I have never noticed any real “sweetness” with my finished water kefir, which is saying a lot, considering all the sugar that goes in at the beginning. If everything is working right, the kefir grains are eating up all the sugar. Did you get your grains from a reputable source? Did you notice bubbles when they were in the sugar water? Did the grains grow over those 6 months that you used them?

  4. My water kefir is not fizzing at all after being left few days now. I use brown sugar which is disovled in cooled boil water. Am I doing it wrong?

  5. We prefer Waterkefir. Generally speaking waterkefir is slightly less concentrated than milkkefir and therefore some individuals find they consume more waterkefir than they would milkkefir.

  6. Do you have to use the sealable bottles? Can you just use mason jars? I haven’t started making water kefir yet, still getting supplies together. Thx!

  7. By the way, we just started making water kefir about a week ago. My husband’s friend has been doing it for a few months with great success. We all use reverse osmosis water, which everyone says not to use. I just want to say that if you use filtered, distilled or RO water, you can either add trace mineral drops or 1/2 an eggshell (worked wonders!) to the water kefir in the 1st brew, and it will give it the minerals it needs :).

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